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Kingston officials warn of ‘immediate’ penalties if gathering limits exceeded in the fall

Kingston city officials are warning young people not to participate in unauthorized gatherings, or fines under the nuisance bylaw will be laid.
Kingston city officials are warning young people not to participate in unauthorized gatherings, or fines under the nuisance bylaw will be laid. Global Kingston

Kingston city officials are reminding residents, especially young people, there will be immediate consequences if they participate in unauthorized gatherings during the novel coronavirus pandemic.

A joint statement from KFL&A Public Health, Kingston police and the City of Kingston said historically, large gatherings in the city have been met with “progressive enforcement and education,” but during the pandemic, any gatherings that surpass the 100-person outdoor limit or the 50-person indoor limit will now result in immediate fines under the city’s nuisance bylaw.

Read more: Few arrests made under Kingston’s nuisance bylaw at St. Patrick’s Day street party, police say

With post-secondary students coming back to school within the next few weeks, the statement noted that spikes in cases of COVID-19 around the country have been largely attributed to young adults who have been attending large social gatherings.

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Queen’s University traditionally has two large parties each year, homecoming and St. Patrick’s Day, that bring thousands of students out in the streets and to each other’s homes.

The city introduced the nuisance bylaw several years back to lay fines and require partygoers to go to court when ticketed, as a means to control these two events, but very few tickets were given out in the past, with police opting for a more measured approach to enforcement. This will now change due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the joint statement.

“While enforcement partners are still committed to educating individuals on the nuisance party bylaw and related regulations wherever possible, a more immediate approach will be required to mitigate immediate health risks to the community this fall,” the statement said.

Click to play video 'Queen’s students celebrated St. Patrick’s Day after health officials urged against it' Queen’s students celebrated St. Patrick’s Day after health officials urged against it
Queen’s students celebrated St. Patrick’s Day after health officials urged against it

Minimum penalties or fines under the bylaw will range from $500 to $1,130, with maximum individual fines reaching up to $100,000, with those ticketed also being required to attend a court appearance.

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“Anyone refusing to identify themselves, if found committing an offence or failing to leave in these situations when directed to do so, can face further charges,” the statement said.